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OverviewLong Beach, MS

If a disaster event warrants national US&R support, FEMA will deploy the three closest task forces within six hours of notification, and additional teams as necessary. The role of these task forces is to support state and local emergency responders' efforts to locate victims and manage recovery operations.

Each task force consists of two 31-person teams, four canines, and a comprehensive equipment cache. US&R task force members work in four areas of specialization: search, to find victims trapped after a disaster; rescue, which includes safely digging victims out of tons of collapsed concrete and metal; technical, made up of structural specialists who make rescues safe for the rescuers; and medical, which cares for the victims before and after a rescue.

In addition to search-and-rescue support, FEMA provides hands-on training in search-and-rescue techniques and equipment, technical assistance to local communities, and in some cases federal grants to help communities better prepare for urban search-and-rescue operations.

The bottom line in urban search-and-rescue - someday lives may be saved because of the skills these rescuers gain. These first responders consistently go to the front lines when America needs them most. We should be proud to have them as a part of our community.

Not only are these first responders a national resource that can be deployed to a major disaster or structural collapse anywhere in the country. They are also the local firefighters and paramedics who answer when you call 911 at home in your local community.

Response Plan

Under the National Response Plan, US&R teams will provide urban search and rescue and life-saving assistance following major domestic incidents.

US&R HistoryLake Shore, MS

In the early 1980s, the Fairfax County Fire & Rescue and Metro-Dade County Fire Department created elite search-and-rescue (US&R) teams trained for rescue operations in collapsed buildings. Working with the United States State Department and Office of Foreign Disaster Aid, these teams provided vital search-and-rescue support for catastrophic earthquakes in Mexico City, the Philippines and Armenia.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) established the National Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Response System in 1989 as a framework for structuring local emergency services personnel into integrated disaster response task forces.

In 1991, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) incorporated this concept into the Federal Response Plan (now the National Response Plan), sponsoring 25 national urban search-and-rescue task forces.

Events such as the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City, the Northridge earthquake, the Kansas grain elevator explosion in 1998 and earthquakes in Turkey and Greece in 1999 underscore the need for highly skilled teams to rescue trapped victims.

The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 thrust FEMA's Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) teams into the spotlight. Their important work transfixed a world and brought a surge of gratitude and support.

Today there are 28 national task forces staffed and equipped to conduct round-the-clock search-and-rescue operations following earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, aircraft accidents, hazardous materials spills and catastrophic structure collapses. These task forces, complete with necessary tools and equipment, and required skills and techniques, can be deployed by FEMA for the rescue of victims of structural collapse.

Pennsylvania Task Force One (PA-TF1)
Pennsylvania Task Force (PA-TF1) is one of twenty-eight certified, operational and deployable federal assets of the National Urban Search and Rescue System established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Department of Homeland Security.

PA-TF1 is comprised of over 210 personnel from numerous participating agencies. This includes personnel staffing management, rescue, medical, search, and technical team positions. At least 70 personnel representing these specialties deploy with the task force.

The Task Force is capable of mobilization from its point of departure, to any where in the United States within 6 hours of a request for a disaster response. The task force is self-sufficient for at least 72 hours. After the first 72 hours, support for the task force is provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Our personnel respond from across Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey but mostly from within 100 miles of Harrisburg International Airport.

PA-TF1 History

In 1990, FEMA awarded the opportunity to develop a US&R task force to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Governor Tom Ridge committed to bringing PA-TF1 to deployable status after taking office and tasked PEMA to see that this was accomplished. PEMA secured funding for training and helped obtain a grant for the City of Harrisburg to purchase much of the necessary equipment needed for deployment.

With tremendous support from the participating and sponsoring agencies, PA-TF1 passed a peer evaluation in the spring of 1996, and subsequently was declared deployable by the FEMA Director in October of 1997.

PA-TF1 distinguished itself during deployment in North Carolina during the 1999 hurricane season and led the specialty response to the Concept Sciences factory blast in Allentown, PA. In addition, the Task Force has been operationally deployed to the World Trade Center, Hurricane Katrina and various National Special Security Events (NSSEs). The Task Force is available for both in-state and out-of-state deployment as conditions warrant.

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